That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

The Liberal obsession

Imagine Obama dealing with the Gulf oil spill by saying “Dubya handled Katrina much worse than this.” Would Americans accept that as an answer? Is that the language of leadership, or of someone who actually wants the job? Because it seems to work for Stephen Harper.

Here we are in the year 2010 – the future is indeed upon us. Yet, you open the newspaper to find that the Conservatives are still trotting out the bogeyman of the “sponsorship scandal” in their vast arsenal of anti-Liberal talking points. It begs the question: how do we explain Conservative obsession with the Liberal Party?

Perhaps both wings of the modern Conservative movement have inherited their own unique reasons. The Progressive Conservative wing (such that it is) were effectively destroyed by the Liberals in the 1990s. The humiliation of going from the party of government to unofficial party status in one fell swoop is certainly enough to breed a lust for vengeance as powerful as any comic book villain.

The Reformers were always a party of opposition – not only regarding their status in the House of Commons, but at the core of their manifesto. Like the Bloc, they were a regionalist, anti-establishment party. So, you oppose, you moan, you criticise, and you do so without any of the cumbersome responsibilities of ever aspiring to represent more than your base, of ever being the establishment.

Now add those humiliated Red Tories from the PC days to the froth-mouthed anti-everything Reformers, and you have a party populated by people who’s primary unifying feature is their obsessive hatred for the Liberals. Not by a common vision for the country that they seem to share – but by a dark, angry desire to squeeze the pride out of their vanquished enemy for its own sake. It’s bloodsport, not simply as a political means, but as a political end as well.

After four years in government, though, it doesn’t really do for the Conservatives to continue behaving like an opposition party. When facing challenges over political interference in appointments of public officials, which is a charge Harper’s facing this week, the PMO can’t simply change the channel and talk about Liberal mistakes of a decade ago. When, in a time of fiscal restraint, they blow $10 billion on super-prisons to lock up fictional criminals, they can’t simply accuse the Liberals of softness on the crimeness. They talk as if Ottawa’s the problem – without admitting that they are Ottawa.

Attack ads work, and negativity works. Sad but true – paint your opponent as a monster and some of that shite will stick. But the point’s going to come when Harper loses out through this negative obsessive anti-Liberal strategy as he increasingly comes off as someone with nothing very positive to say about his own party, and someone whose reactive, contrarian language betrays a desire to just go back to being an opponent again. Well Steve, as ever, we’re happy to help.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,

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August 2010

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